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Monday, April 16, 2012

Kauai Bird Challenge

During spring break we visited Kauai and I photographed a number of birds, most of which are unlikely to ever be seen on Union Bay. Some of these birds are considered endangered and can be seen in only a few places in Kauai or Hawaii. Included below are a dozen different photos and your challenge is to sort the birds into three groups. The three groups are:

   1) Native birds - birds that did not need human assistance to get to Kauai.
   2) Second-wave birds - birds that arrived with native Hawaiians.
   3) Third-wave birds - birds that arrived with assistance in modern times.

The correct grouping or level for each bird is shown later in the blog. You could write down the letters A through L in a column and then make your best guess (1, 2 or 3) as you look at each photo. Good Luck!

A. Red-Crested Cardinal

B. Northern Cardinal

C. Apapane

D. Mejiro

E. Western Meadow-Lark

F. Pacific Golden-Plover

G. Zebra Dove

H. Common Moorhen

I. Red Jungle Fowl

J. Cattle Egret

K. Black-Crowned Night Heron

L. Hawaiian Stilt

My time on Kauai was limited so there were many birds I did not see, some I saw but my photos were not so hot  and some cases I simply missed the chance. For instance, I had a brief glimpse of two birds flying in a canyon just east of Wiamea that seemed to be about the size of tropicbirds. They looked to be a pale yellow-green in color. I can not find any birds in the books that fit this description. It was early in the morning but I don't think I was dreaming.

By the way, the book that was most useful on this trip was:

"A Pocket Guide to Hawai'i's Birds" by H. Douglas Pratt with photos by Jack Jeffery (and Mr. Pratt). In addition to descriptions and color photos of the birds, in the back of the book is a list of a dozen birding hotspots in Hawaii. The list by itself would be worth the price of the book. The only concern about the book is that its copyright date is 1996 which does makes one wonder if  the status of various birds may have changed.  Most likely the situation for most of the endangered birds has not improved much. 

In any case here the levels for each of the birds.

A. Red-Crested Cardinal - Level 3, introduced from South America

B. Northern Cardinal - Level 3, introduced from North America

C. Apapane - Level 1, native forest bird from Kauai. There are more than a dozen other Hawaiian forest birds that are much more rare (or extinct) than the Apapane. Each of these birds is equally beautiful and unique.

D. Mejiro (Japanese White-Eye) - Level 3, introduced from Japan

E. Western Meadow-Lark - Level 3, introduced from North America

F. Pacific Golden-Plover- Level 1, summers in Alaska and winters in Hawaii

G. Zebra Dove - Level 3, introduced from Australia

H. Common Moorhen - Level 1, native and endangered in Hawaii, common elsewhere

I. Red Jungle Fowl - Level 2, introduced from Southeast Asia, Note: The feet are not the bright yellow of a barnyard chicken.

J. Cattle Egret - Level 3, introduced from Africa

K. Black-Crowned Night Heron - Level 1, native

L. Hawaiian Stilt - Level 1, native 

Of these 12 birds 5 are native birds. This is not the ratio of native-to-introduced birds you will see in Kauai. If you visit Kauai you will most likely see dozens of introduced birds for every one of the native birds.  The challenges for native birds in Kauai are some of the most difficult in the world. For the most part there is a limited and shrinking supply of native environment and pressure from all sides. There may be some efforts underway to convert land back to native forests. I did not have a chance to find or visit any of these locations but it would be interesting to  learn more about these efforts. The following link is intriguing but dated:


If anyone finds more up-to-date information related to the Robinson's and their land or other efforts in Kauai, I am definitely curious to hear more.

Additional photos will be posted at:


I hope you did well on your Kauai Bird Challenge!


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